WA call center provides child care support for families experiencing homelessness

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The high cost of child care in Washington can strain family budgets. It can be even harder when families are experiencing homelessness.

A statewide call center is helping people find care and a way to afford it. BrightSpark Early Learning Services operates the Child Care Aware of Washington Family Center, which fields calls from families.

The center also has homeless navigation services. Erika Washington, department manager of family access with BrightSpark, said staff ensure they understand each families’ needs.

“Does your little one have any special needs? And we’re really able to pinpoint programs that meet each families unique needs,” said Washington. “This offers families some stability and just knowing that we’re on their side, we have their back and we’re also understanding of some of the challenges that they may face.”

Washington said the call center is able to connect families with state child care subsidies like Working Connections, or through the homelessness grace period.

The center also provides follow-up services after 30, 60, and 120 days.

Washington talked about one family BrightSpark was able to help that moved to Washington and ended up needing housing. The family had one school-age child and two kids under the age of five.

Washington said they connected the family with a child care program that understood how to support families experiencing homelessness.

“So when transportation became an issue, or when hours of operation became an issue,” said Washington, “this child care provider was able to really support this family’s needs and really become more of like a family or support system for that parent.”

Washington said the center wants to uplift families’ voices and let them know how they can take action. She said they support enough families experiencing homelessness to understand their needs.

“A lot of times those families who are experiencing homelessness are working the evening hours or weekend hours,” said Washington, “and that’s a big challenge across our state, of being able to find child care programs that is available during those hours. And so, it’s something that we hear time and time again, and we often are providing support but that need continues to be there.”

Child Care Aware of Washington Family Center can be reached at 1-800-446-1114.

— By Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service (WA)

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